Running takes guts – especially when you’re just starting out. Every other runner on the road seems light-years ahead of you. But the reality is: you’ll get there. Whether you have a marathon on your bucket list or just want to get through your first 5K, there are four key steps every new runner must take to the finish line.
1. Learn the lingo
Before you get going, try to get familiar with common running terms. That way you’re not overwhelmed or utterly confused when you move on to the next step (the training plan).
Easy run: They don’t call it easy for nothing! You should be able to maintain a conversation throughout the entire run.
Fartleks: This is an easy run with quick bursts of all-out sprinting sprinkled in. For example, pick a landmark down the road to sprint to, and then run easy on the return to your starting point. These intervals would be repeated until you’ve completed a number of miles or have run for a pre-determined duration.
LSD: It’s not what you think. LSD to runners stands for long, slow distance. Depending on your goal or race distance, your weekly LSD could be as little as 3 miles up to 22+ miles if you’re training for a marathon.
Pace: You probably know what this means. When it comes to running, pace is determined by the number of minutes it takes you to run 1 mile (1K for metric runners).
PR: Your personal record, or personal best, is the best overall time you have ever completed (in a race).
Tempo run: This is a form of speed training, where you hold a comfortably hard pace for 20 minutes or longer. Typically, this is considered “race pace,” or the pace you want to run for your upcoming event.
2. Draw a Plan
To be most successful in starting your running journey, it’s essential to find a plan that suits your goals and – most importantly – follow it. If you’ve never run before, the Couch-to-5K app for smart-phone users is a perfect place to start. If you’ve dabbled with running and feel ready to take on a bigger challenge, such as a 10K (6.2 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles), there are a lot of comprehensive training plans to help reach those mile-markers. Most plans will be customized based on experience, race distance and pace goals. Some of my personal favorite plans come from the Hanson’s Distance Project, Hal Higdon and Runner’s World.
3. Gear Up!
- Get fitted.
The shoe your best friend raves about may not be the best fit for you. Head to a running store and get properly sized. Let them know how much you plan to run each week, the type of terrain (trail or road) and test out a few different styles and brands. Many stores even have treadmills to let you take them for a test spin.
- Settle on good socks.
You want socks that are “wicking.” That means the fabric is specially designed to wick away moisture (aka sweat), preventing massive blisters from forming while you run.
4. Fuel for Function
Don’t overlook nutrition, as it’s an integral part of your training plan.
- Pre-workout: Reach for simple, easily digestible carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes before your run. Easy grabs include a banana, dates or Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer.
- During the workout: No matter how long you’re running, it’s never a bad idea to bring water. If it’s a hot day or you’re heading out for more than 30 minutes, reaching for electrolytes with Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator would be a good idea as well.
- Post-workout: There are many elements to successful recovery. When focusing on food, a 4-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio 15 to 30 minutes after you run is optimal for replenishing lost energy. I recommend a handful of trail mix, an apple with 1 tablespoon nut butter or a recovery drink like Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, which is quick and easy nutrition when you’re short on time. About an hour later, enjoy a balanced post-workout meal. This doesn’t need to be any larger than normal, but should feature a heavier protein profile. A clean, digestible protein powder is sufficient if you’re really pinched for time.
Remember, when you fuel better, you perform better. Now tell us, what are you training for this spring?
About the author
Kim McDevitt, MPH, RD
As a registered dietitian and Regional Educator with Vega, Kim has a passion for teaching the power of nutrient dense, plant-based foods. She helps her audiences to understand health in an approachable way — with plenty of laughter and stories. As a runner, with advanced degrees in both nutrition science and public health, Kim loves to inspire others through her creative recipes, personal experience and engaging training events.